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Director Ryoo Seung-wan returns with crime thriller fronted by women

Jun 28, 2023
  • Source by Yonhap
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Two "haenyeo" are unexpectedly tangled up in a high-stakes smuggling scheme


Acclaimed director Ryoo Seung-wan, best known for films such as Veteran (2015) and Escape from Mogadishu (2021), will return after two years with the genre that he can do the best: a crime action thriller. Smugglers marks his first film of the genre since "Veteran," seen by more than 10 million moviegoers, a standard for commercially successful films in South Korea with a population of nearly 52 million.


Set in the 1970s in a peaceful seaside village, Smugglers, revolves around two "haenyeo," traditional female divers, who are unexpectedly tangled up in a high-stakes smuggling scheme.





Veteran actresses Kim Hye-soo and Yum Jung-ah take the lead roles as the two female divers, marking the first time Ryoo's production centers on female characters. "The two actors came to my mind from the early stage of creating this story," Ryoo, who directed and co-wrote the film, said during a press conference held at a movie theater in Seoul on Tuesday to promote the title. "I don't know why, but I was strongly convinced that I had to do the film with those actors. You'll come to know they are irreplaceable, if you watch the film."


Kim said, "Since there are not many such works in the film industry, unlike the television or streaming industries, I felt grateful at the news that a women-centered movie was being planned and was happy when I was offered for a lead role."




Actors Kim Hye-soo (L) and Yum Jung-ah pose during a press conference for their new film "Smugglers" in Seoul on June 20, 2023. (Yonhap)


Kim plays Cho Chun-ja, the first haenyeo in the village who steps foot into the world, enthralled by rumors that she can make big money by simply picking up things dumped into the sea. She offers her best friend and leader of the regional haenyeos, Eom Jin-sook (played by Yum), to do the business together with her.


Zo In-sung and Park Jung-min also join the cast, respectively, as Gwon Pil-sam, the kingpin of a national smuggling ring, and Jang Do-ri, a naive boy in the fishing village who gradually becomes aware of the smuggling business through the two haenyeos. 


Kim reminisced about her experience of having a panic attack during an underwater shoot. "I was looking down into the water, about 6 meters deep, at the underwater shooting facility when a panic attack hit me. I thought, 'What should I do? Should I quit here?' But as each person went in and did so well, I got excited and cheered. That helped me calm down a bit and get out of the state of panic."


Yum was a beer bottle in the water herself when she was offered the professional diver character. "I had a strong aversion to water and had never swum before, but my desire to take on the role was overwhelming," she explained. "So I began with the belief that I would be able to swim if I practiced hard, and eventually, I made it."


The director, however, emphasized the film will also provide fun as an action movie although the two female characters lead the narrative. "In Smugglers, you'll see a more serious, sharp and provocative side of me than in Mogadishu," Zo said.


The film will open in local theaters on July 26.



The director (1st from L) and the cast of "Smugglers" attend a press conference to promote the film in Seoul on June 20, 2023. (Yonhap)



By Shim Sun-ah 

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